There have already been a few days of sun and warmer temperatures. Some nice weather days and rain but very much still cold, reminding us winter is here for a while. I was thinking recently about my winters at the farm and the one February I held a workshop in breadmaking partially outside and partially in the kitchen. There had been a lot of snow the night before and it was cold, blowing and difficult for the attendees to travel to the farm.
Firing up the oven
I fired up the wood oven early in the morning so the temperature would be just right for baking. Some were not able to make it but a few brave folks did come out. I remember wondering why I was doing this, sending people out in their coats and mitts to form dough and waiting in the cold while it was baking. But I loved it and hoped they would as well. It’s cold here in Canada and we spend six months or more a year grumping about the weather. I need to have things to do outside or else I would go crazy being stranded inside. Bread baking is wonderful at any time of year but outside and in the winter it’s a bit of an adventure and each slice is more delicious than the other.
Looking back over the last number of years when I lived on the farm, I planned a lot of things outside that involved food. I offered an evening dinner by the fire where guests could have stew, fresh bread, and a glass of wine. One of those nights ended up being the coldest night of not only that year but in 42 years! Or cooking bread over an open fire after snowshoeing into the forest. Making pizzas for skiers outdoors on Family Day and all of us who were baking and serving freezing outside for hours. I think there is a theme beginning to emerge here….
Not everyone has a wood fired oven in the backyard but a bbq would do and baking in a kitchen oven also works. A treat is breaking off a warm piece of bread with butter and honey and enjoying it outside in the park or on the front stoop. What I’m really saying is that for many of us, winter is a time to get through to the other side where the sun is shining and the soil is warm for seeds. I’m always looking for diversions and a way to enjoy every season – even the ones that are challenging.
Recipe for 2 loaves
Saturday plain or Sourdough Bread
All-purpose Flour 680 g or 5 ½ cups
Water 350 g or 2 ¼ cups
Leaven/Starter 100 g or 2 tsp instant yeast
Salt 14 g or 1 tablespoons kosher salt
In a medium to large bowl, mix together flour and water until incorporated. Let rest at least 30 minutes. . Add the yeast/leaven until well incorporated with no visible streaks. Mix salt in thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon incorporating it well. Gather the dough toward the center of the bowl to reshape into one cohesive mass.
Fold dough from the edge of the bowl into the centre, rotating so all the dough is stretched and folded evenly. Repeat the folding so all the dough is stretched and folded for four full rotations of the bowl.
Lightly oil a bowl with a light, neutral oil (canola, sunflower, grapeseed).
Let rest for 30 minutes, covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
Stretch and fold the dough toward the centre and repeat for two full rotations of the bowl.
Let rest 1 – 2 hours, covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap. The dough is ready when it feels smooth, and lightly aerated. It will grow in volume by about 20%.
Lightly flour the surface of the dough. Turn the dough over onto a clean counter. Working gently with the dough, fold the dough into the centre and turn it into a round.
Let the dough rest seam side down on the counter for 30 – 60 minutes covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
Coat a loaf pan in oil and dust with flour or bake on a baking sheet in a flat focaccia type style.
Lightly flour the top of the dough and gently flip it over on the counter so it is seam side up. Shape the dough once again into a round. Place the dough seam side down into a loaf pan.
Let rise uncovered 2-4 hours before baking, or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 475° F.
Mist or brush the surface of the dough with water. Place into preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 425° F.
Bake another 20-30 minutes or until the dough sounds hollow to the touch or has an internal temperature of 195°F
About Danielle French
I founded South Pond Farms in 2008. The property is on the Oak Ridges Moraine in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga. South Pond started as a small food delivery business making fresh prepared meals from ingredients in my garden. Together with my family, we restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land to become a destination for authentic culinary experiences, weddings, celebrations, workshops. Inspired from the farm, I also create a line of culinary products and gifts.
In 2021, I was ready to move away from the farm. As much as I loved the land and the country, it was time to let someone else bring their passion to what we had created. My new home is in Peterborough, Ontario where I’m taking some time to write, contemplate next steps, train my dogs, blog about recipes and interesting explorations and unpack!